Commentary: Happy 2014

Lori Scozzafava

Lori Scozzafava
BioCycle January 2014, Vol. 55, No. 1, p. 62

The start of a new year is a good time to both reflect and look forward. I’m excited to share my thoughts about the past year for the US Composting Council (USCC) and what 2014 may bring.

There were significant successes for the industry and the USCC in 2013. To begin with, we saw passage of a number of key legislative initiatives that will lay the groundwork for expansion of composting in places like Vermont, Connecticut and New York City. Composting facility permitting regulations made significant advances in states like Georgia, Minnesota and Maryland. Furthermore, the USCC released its Model Rules in the Spring of 2013, upon which these regulations relied.

USCC’s outreach made great strides in 2013 as well. A major accomplishment was the partnership with BioCycle Magazine. With BioCycle as the USCC’s official magazine, the voice of these two organizations is now bigger than either could do separately. Increased exposure on each other’s websites, as well as on the cover of BioCycle, elevates our collaboration, especially as we reach out to audiences in other industry sectors.

The USCC’s other successful outreach initiative was our Million Tomato Compost Campaign. Through this campaign, hundreds of individuals across the nation used compost and learned about its sustainability benefits. Almost 78,000 cubic feet of compost was delivered to about 200 community gardens all over the U.S. We estimate that over 1.2 million tomatoes were grown during this campaign!

The USCC’s sister organization, Composting Council Research & Education Foundation (CCREF), is helping to educate a broad audience about composting by launching the Curb to Compost Tool Kit for communities interested in advancing from yard trimmings composting to compost manufacturing that contains food scraps. It is also has updated its publication, “The Soil & Water Connection: A Watershed Manager’s Guide to Organics,” to inform new and diverse audiences about the benefits of compost. This document discusses use of compost in a variety of low-impact development and green infrastructure projects and provides the science behind the benefits of compost use to soil health and clean water.

Two new USCC Chapters started in 2013 in Minnesota and Maryland/District of Columbia — reflecting the USCC’s growing sphere of influence. This was in addition to partnerships with key associations such as the American Biogas Council, Keep America Beautiful, International Erosion Control Association, Biodegradable Products Institute, American Society of Landscape Architects and Soil Science Society of America.

The mid-year shift to a new Executive Director brought a fresh start and a new set of eyes to the USCC’s long history of supporting and expanding the compost manufacturing industry. The Board, committees and members all had the opportunity to reflect on how the association was operating and where they’d like to see the organization go. As a result, some immediate steps were taken to get the USCC financials in order and generate a budget that would both function as a guidance document and a financial management tool. Key staff were hired to support strategic goals: Collect industry data; conduct training; and strengthen USCC’s financial position through better marketing of products and services.

Focus In 2014

I have no doubt that the USCC will build upon these successes and strategies in 2014. As in the past, the Council will focus on four main areas: Development of markets for compost; Standards setting; Advocacy; and Education. The plan and budget development for USCC’s fiscal year (April 1 – March 31, 2014) is currently underway and is expected to include these key initiatives:

Advocacy work that proactively promotes policies that support our industry while fighting any landfill ban repeals or other regressive policies. This includes building on our Model Compost Rule Template, model legislation for labeling compostable plastics, and teaming with key allies at the state and national level.

Enhancing member services, especially around communication tools, while examining our general approach to membership and chapters. A new member survey, improved website functionality, increased social media, and simplified dues structure are important aspects of this.

More educational opportunities, including week-long, day-long and web-based training, are being planned for 2014.

Continued improvements to the Seal of Testing Assurance (STA) program, including updates to the Test Method for the Examination of Composting and Compost (TMECC).

Developing and refining marketing and educational materials to promote the value of compost to Departments of Transportation, landscape architects and other large volume specifiers.

In looking forward, we should all have an optimistic vision of the future because interest in compost and compost manufacturing continues to grow. I see this trend continuing into 2014 and well into the future. After all, compost is the sustainable solution.

Happy New Year to you all. All the best for you, your families and your companies in 2014.

 

Lori Scozzafava is Executive Director of the US Composting Council, based in Bethesda, Maryland. To learn more, visit the USCC website at www.composting council.org.

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